MEET KAREN SYLVESTER
IN MY OWN WORDS…
I am the proud mom of three children, all of whom have attended or are attending CVUSD schools, K-12.
I first stepped foot on a campus in 2001 when my oldest started kindergarten at Westlake Hills Elementary School. My youngest is set to graduate in June of 2020 from Westlake High School. In the intervening 18 years, I have been an active volunteer and respected parent leader at all of my children’s school sites and I have worked tirelessly to improve the educational and co curricular experience for all students.
Among many other positions, I have been President of the Westlake Hills Elementary School PFA (Parent Faculty Association), Executive Vice President of the Colina Middle School PTSA (Parent Teacher Student Association) and President of the Westlake High School PTSA. In these positions I organized and led a dedicated group of parent volunteers who raised much needed funds for our schools, arranged for assemblies and extracurricular programs for the students, and communicated with parents, teachers, and administration about campus issues and events. I have advocated for campus-wide security cameras, abolished classroom competitions and showy student “rewards” based on parental financial contributions, ensured that all monies raised went directly into classrooms, budgeted for student scholarships and aid within the PTSA, and fought to ensure fair booster club practices.
I have also been a member of the School Site Councils for both Westlake Hills and Westlake High School. In that capacity, I gained a broader understanding of school-wide issues and budgetary concerns through interactions with administration, teachers and staff. And in my role as a member of the District Advisory Council (DAC) – I was the Westlake Hills Representative, a Member-at-large of the Executive Board, and am currently the Westlake High School Representative – I have gained an even more comprehensive view of the school district and other member schools within the CVUSD. I have seen firsthand how other school sites are grappling with the issues besetting our district; the achievement gap, school safety concerns, the social and emotional health of students, declining enrollment, and funding shortfalls. And I have seen the myriad ways the District is handling these issues.
Responsible usage of the proceeds of the Measure I School Bond, passed by the community in 2014, is one way the District is addressing some of these problems. As a newly appointed member of the Measure I Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, my responsibility is to ensure the funds are used for the correct capital and safety expenditures as well as for the appropriate technology purchases.
I don’t believe that education ends in the classroom. As an appointed Commissioner on the Thousand Oaks Council on Aging, one of my responsibilities is understanding and communicating educational concerns and lifelong learning opportunities for senior adults. I applied to this Commission to extend my school volunteer involvement to the needs of seniors within our community, which we know is a rapidly growing demographic.
Throughout these past 18 years I have built strong relationships and earned a solid reputation with parent groups, teachers, staff and administrators. Many of them have been encouraging me to run and are part of the reason I am seeking a seat on the Board of Education.
My value as a School Board Trustee goes well beyond my extensive experience with the schools. My own educational background and professional experience make me uniquely qualified to hold this position.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics, summa cum laude, from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, I went on to earn my MBA (Master of Business Administration) from Harvard Business School. I then embarked on a professional career in management consulting and banking. I have held Vice President/Project Manager positions at CAST Management Consultants, Bankers Trust Company, Price Waterhouse, and Chase Econometrics.
As a consultant, I was brought in to identify issues and solve problems for large corporations and financial institutions. Some of these issues were comprehensive in nature, such as developing a strategic marketing plan based on a customer needs segmentation, other projects were more granular, such as reorganizing back office functional departments to more effectively and efficiently operate. The skills to develop these solutions involved analyzing complicated quantitative data such as financials and market statistics as well as assessing anecdotal qualitative input from all relevant stakeholders, such as the CEO, the Board, employees, the sales force, customers and even competitors. Synthesizing all of this information and determining the best course of action often led to hard conversations and decisions throughout the organization. All recommendations, decisions, and action plans had to be fiscally responsible and financially justified. For these organizations the ultimate metric is financial performance.
I believe that the combination of my school site leadership experience, my CVUSD knowledge, along with my educational and professional credentials, enables me to be an effective School Board Trustee with the ability to thoughtfully and logically assess the issues and make rational decisions. And for this organization, the CVUSD, the ultimate metric is student success.